Nafessa Williams on playing Black Lightning’s unapologetic, badass lesbian superhero
“We’re not fighting aliens, we’re not fighting strange creatures, we’re really fighting the social injustice – the issues that are happening within our black communities,” Nafessa Williams told PinkNews.
Williams plays Anissa Pierce aka Thunder, a black rights activist who, for once, is not subjected to the traditional coming out storyline, but instead “walks boldly” as an out lesbian in Black Lightning, the hit new CW superhero drama.
“We’ve seen in certain films and TV shows where certain characters in the comic book world haven’t been translated with that same sexuality once it’s on film and TV,” she said.
“What’s really cool about our show is that we stuck true to who Thunder was – she was a lesbian in the comic book, and we just really wanted to pay homage to her.”
“A black, queer superhero character? We’ve never seen it before. And hopefully this is the shift for many more queer characters in TV and film.
“Representation matters, and we all want to see ourselves when we turn on the television – we all want to connect to characters who are like us, who look like us, who share the same sexuality.”
Williams spoke exclusively to PinkNews and revealed what’s in store for viewers when Black Lightning returns for a second season later this year.
“I come from inner city – I grew up in Philadelphia, which is a city very similar to our fictional city on the show, Freeland,” she explained.
“These are issues that need light shed on them. I love that in the show they reference me as Harriet Tubman, and I love that we’re keeping her name alive – she serves so much inspiration for Anissa.
“She has that same fight in her. I’d like to think she’s like the modern-day [version].”
In the first series, Anissa splits from girlfriend Chenoa and begins dating Grace Choi – and Williams suggested there will be an even bigger focus on her love life in the upcoming season.
“I’m hoping to see more of Thunder’s love life in Season 2 – in Season 1 she was definitely on this journey of self-discovery, trying to understand how her powers, how they work, and she really didn’t have much time for a relationship.
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“So I hope to see more of Grace and some romantic moments because she needs to, you know, have some love to.”
It’s clear Williams is proud to be an ally and give voice to such a radical character.
“I’ve always played opposite of men and it got boring. I wanted something new so being able to sink my teeth into a LGBTQ character and finding myself being an advocate within the community, I’m learning so much.
“The reaction has been great – especially doing the comic conventions and having young women come up to me saying they feel normal and able to be who they are, it’s such a rewarding experience.”
Black Lightning Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix in the UK. Season 2 premieres later this year.